Republicans moved aggressively on Wednesday to seize the initiative in the upcoming fight over union-friendly “card check” legislation, simultaneously introducing bills in both the House and Senate that would protect workers’ rights to vote on union representation in private.
“We think it’s an issue where the American people are completely on our side,” Republican Study Committee spokesman Brendan Buck tells Newsmax. “So we want to be sure we’re out there letting them know that [card check] would strip away their rights in the workplace.”
Card check, euphemistically called the Employee Free Choice Act, is a Democratic proposal that would have workers sign cards indicating whether they want a union. The cards would be public documents, thereby eliminating the current system by which workers vote confidentially.
Public figures ranging from former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern to former Bush Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao have slammed card check as undemocratic and dangerous.
Once workers’ votes on unionization become public, they warn, employees could be exposed to intimidation by union toughs.
“The secret ballot is a pillar of American democracy,” Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., said Wednesday. Price, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said Democrats want card check to “advance a political agenda.”
Union members vote disproportionately Democratic. Card check is highly coveted by organized labor because it is expected to swell the ranks of unions.
The Republican bill, called the Secret Ballot Protection Act, would prevent the recognition of any union formed via an open, public ballot.
Senators Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., also attended the news conference announcing the GOP legislation. Those senators introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he expects Senate Democrats to make another big push for card-check this summer. In the last session of Congress, card check sailed through the House by a 241 to 185 margin.
Senate Democrats, however, could only get 51 of the 60 votes they needed to cut off debate on the measure, effectively killing it for the 110th Congress.
With the election of President Obama and the growing strength of Democrats in the Senate, union leaders believe a victory on card check now could be within reach.
Several moderate Democrats have expressed concerns about open-vote union balloting. AFL-CIO leaders, however, say they aren’t worried that the Democratic legislation has taken a back burner to debate over the nation’s economy.
Obama was a strong card-check proponent during the campaign. The BarackObama.com Web site states: “Obama cosponsored and is strong advocate for the Employee Free Choice Act, a bipartisan effort to assure that workers can exercise their right to organize. He will continue to fight for EFCA's passage and sign it into law.”
Now he appears to be moving toward the center on the issue, however.
In January, he reportedly told the Washington Post: “I will listen to [the] parties involved and see if there are ways we can bring those parties together and restore some balance.”
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